AFLW Round 7 – Fremantle v Carlton: Bruises before the bloodbath

Saturday, 17 March
Fremantle Oval


Though this was the only final round game without much hanging on it, someone clearly forgot to tell the players. Rather than going through the motions, what transpires at Fremantle Oval last Saturday is one of the fiercest and most brutally contested games of the entire season. Players hobble, stagger or are assisted to the interchange benches on regular rotation. By game’s end, both sides’ benches are significantly reduced.


In case you hadn’t figured it out already, AFLW is not for the faint of heart.


Fremantle kick with the assistance of what appears to be a substantial wind. A long range Kara Donnellan set shot apart, they fail to take much advantage. Tayla Harris proves a major headache for the Docker defence. She sneaks out the back to kick Carlton’s first, then outmuscles an opponent to set up Al Downie for our second. The Blues lead by maximising their limited opportunities. Only a late goal to the retiring Amy Lavell restores a narrow Docker lead.


By this stage, Freo are already missing Alicia Janz with a knee injury, whilst Gabby O’Sullivan finds out the hard way that you better brace yourself when contesting a ball with Katie Loynes.


Carlton hold sway in the second term, but are dogged by issues that have bedeviled them all season. Inefficient ball use and inaccuracy in front of goal ensure we have little scoreboard result for Tayla’s continued dominance. It is Freo’s turn to snatch a goal from minimal opportunities, courtesy of Hayley Miller. Carlton by only three points at halftime after a 1.5 to 1.0 term.


When Darcy Vescio outmanoeuvres her marker to kick a deft left foot snap early in term three, the Blues briefly look the goods. Then things really fire up. Strangely, it is the Docker skipper who seems to get caught up in the increasing intensity of the clashes. Donnellan first takes a wild air swing at a ground ball, gifting Sarah Hosking a free in front of goal. Then Donnellan clumsily falls into Loynes’s back. Both Carlton players squander easy shots. Not content to cut her losses, Donnellan then takes a cheap, late shot on Tayla. The resulting downfield kick is finally converted by Loynes.


Whilst their skipper is having a most uncharacteristic quarter, the rest of the Freo team find another gear. Kellie Gibson returned home after playing in Adelaide’s premiership last year and, owing to injury, waited until the last round to debut in purple. As the game progresses, she begins to assert a meaningful influence. Dana Hooker wins the ball prolifically from the beginning. As the term wears on, weight of midfield possession swings Freo’s way. Goals to Webb and Gibson, and a lovely Lavell set shot after the siren, wrests back the lead.


All this occurrs amidst a scene resembling a smash-up derby. First, Shae Audley is put out of the game when she hits her head when tackled. Given the number of tackles Shae has laid this season, it would count as a statistically likely occurrence she’d finally get hurt in one. Then Tayla Harris leaps for a mark at centre half forward, front knee extended in classic style. Hayley Miller disregards personal safety by confronting her from the opposite direction. Tayla Bresland also flies from the side. The resulting impact leaves all three sprawled on the ground like the innards of a burst piñata. Miller, in particular, is many minutes getting to her feet. Freo are in danger of running out of bench numbers.


It matters not, as the Dockers find the match winning burst in the early minutes of the final term. Ebony Antonio, moved to centre half forward, has an immediate impact. Then Ashley Sharp out-sprints the Blues’ defence to kick a running goal. Antonio pings Nic Stevens with the ball and kicks straight. Then Hooker caps a marvellous game by clearing the defensive pack and watching it bounce through. Ahead by 20 points, the Dockers aren’t seriously threatened again.


Carlton had worked hard on varying their ball movement in this game. They also managed their highest score for the season. But ultimately, their running brigade was outmatched again by the opposition. This has been a recurring theme. Too much was again left to Sarah Hosking and Katie Loynes. They have lacked sufficient support all season.


Bri Davey’s knee injury ultimately exposed long running problems with Carlton’s playing list. As a group, the Blues’ lack the running capacity and disposal skills this season has demanded. Problems evident last season were left unresolved in the trade period, where the Blues threw the kitchen sink at getting two key position players. Carlton clearly failed to see where the game was heading this season, and mistook their relative position in the competition. This year’s wooden spoon has been the result. For supporters of their men’s side, this will sound familiar.


What has followed since Saturday will also be wearily familiar to Blues fans. Coach Damien Keeping has lost his job. This follows the mid-season resignation of list manager, Graham Burgen. Rumours now abound of player dissatisfaction and potential exodus. When this correspondent spoke to some Carlton players after last season, they spoke positively of how they felt the club had embraced them. Something has clearly gone awry since then.


This is a poor time to be bottoming out, with expansion teams set to dominate the best picks in the next draft. If vital players should opt to leave, they will not be easily replaced. Without a coach, with morale seemingly low, clearly lagging the rest of the competition this last five rounds, Carlton look set for a very long off-season.


After what appeared to be such a promising start last year, some serious questions need to be asked and answered as to how it’s come to this.


Fremantle: 2.2, 3.2, 6.4, 9.5 (59)
Carlton: 2.0, 3.5, 5.7, 6.12 (48)


Fremantle: Lavell 2; Donnellan, Miller, Webb, Gibson, Sharp, Antonio, Hooker

Carlton: Harris, Downie 2; Vescio, Loynes


Fremantle: Hooker, Antonio, Webb, Gibson, Miller, Lavell
Carlton: Harris, Loynes, S. Hosking, Moody, Downie


Umpires: Rawlings, Simmonds, McPhee        Crowd: not given


About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Rick Kane says

    Great stuff JB, I rode the tension of your piece the whole way. Well until Freo took off!

    Love this gem: The resulting impact leaves all three sprawled on the ground like the innards of a burst piñata.


  2. John Butler says

    Thanks Trucker. This game was really played for keeps. Says something about the pride of the athletes involved.


Leave a Comment